American Economic Association
|Legal status||Learned society in economics|
|Purpose||Encourage research, publication, and free discussion of economic topics|
|Headquarters||Nashville, TN, USA|
|William D. Nordhaus, Yale University|
The American Economic Association (AEA) is a learned society in the field of economics, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. It publishes one of the most prestigious academic journals in economics: the American Economic Review. The AEA was established in 1885 in Saratoga, New York by younger economists trained in the German historical school; since 1900 it has been under the control of academics.
The purposes of the Association are: 1) The encouragement of economic research, especially the historical and statistical study of the actual conditions of industrial life; 2) The issue of publications on economic subjects; 3) The encouragement of perfect freedom of economic discussion. The Association as such will take no partisan attitude, nor will it commit its members to any position on practical economic questions. Its current president is Richard Thaler of University of Chicago.
Once composed primarily of college and university teachers of economics, the Association now attracts an increasing number of members from business and professional groups. Today the membership is about 18,000, over half of whom are academics. About 15% are employed in business and industry, and the remainder largely by federal, state, and local government or other not-for-profit organizations.
For many years, the AEA published three economics journals: the American Economic Review, the Journal of Economic Literature, and the Journal of Economic Perspectives (which is available online for free). In 2009, it began to publish four new area-specific journals, collectively called the American Economic Journal (AEJ). The four areas covered by AEJ are applied economics, economic policy, macroeconomics, and microeconomics. The AEA recognizes annually a Best Paper Award for papers published in each of the four.
The AEA also produces EconLit, the AEA's electronic bibliography. It is a comprehensive index to peer-reviewed journal articles, books, book reviews, collective volume articles, working papers, and dissertations. Compiled and abstracted in a searchable format, EconLit indexes 125 years of economic literature from around the world. It follows the JEL classification codes of the Journal of Economic Literature.
The AEA sponsors RFE: Resources for Economists on the Internet, an online source available to the general public without subscription. It catalogs and annotates 2,000+ internet sites under some 97 sections and subsubsections. RFE is currently updated on a monthly basis.
The AEA resource, Job Openings for Economists (JOE) originated in October 1974, and lists job openings for economists. It is published electronically monthly (except January and July).
AEA, in conjunction with over 50 associations in related disciplines, holds a three-day annual meeting to present papers on general economic subjects. This meeting features about 500 scholarly sessions. A placement service to assist employers and job applicants begins a day prior to the meetings. A continuing education program is held immediately after the annual meeting. Topics vary from year to year.
Each year, the AEA recognizes the lifetime research contributions of four economists by electing them Distinguished Fellows. The Association also awards annually the John Bates Clark Medal for outstanding research accomplishments in economics to a scholar under the age of 40; it is often referred to as the "Baby Nobel," as many of its recipients go on to become Nobel Laureates. The most recent winner (2015) is Roland Fryer.
Presidents of the association include:
Distinguished Fellow honorees include:
An AEA site listing all Distinguished Fellows and, since 2004, accompanying linked AEA statements is here. Accompanying statements for years before 2004 may be found in the following year of the American Economic Review, issue no. 3 (June), on two unnumbered front pages, also accessible electronically, as at JSTOR.
Attitudes of members
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In 1959, George Stigler argued that studying economics tends to make one “conservative,” and indeed that "economists are conservative." Paul Krugman contends that the neoclassical micro-macro synthesis was “an imperfect but workable union achieved half a century ago, which has allowed economists to combine moderately activist views about monetary policy with otherwise generally free market beliefs.” Deirdre McCloskey, exposing the "secret sins of economists," in 2002 said, “Libertarianism is typical of economics, especially English-speaking economics, and most especially American economics” Using survey data from professors in the 1970s, sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset concluded, "Many of the most influential younger scholars in [economics] are supporters of varying forms of antistatist free-market doctrines”.
However, more recent 21st century surveys show very different results and demonstrate that free-market economists constitute a small portion of all economists. A survey of a sample of AEA members identified their views on 18 specific forms of government activism, finding that about 8% of AEA members can be considered supporters of free-market principles and that less than 3% may be called strong supporters. Even the average Republican AEA member is 'middle-of-the-road,' not free market.
William McEachern, an economist at the University of Connecticut, analysed the 2004 campaign contributions of AEA members, committee members, officers, editors, referees, authors, and acknowledgees. He found that 2004 contributions heavily favored the Democratic Party, especially among leadership positions. He argues that this contradicts AEA's claim of non-partisanship, that it harms the economics profession by favoring certain opinions over others, and that it cripples the spirit of discussion that AEA seeks to promote and may lead to intellectual complacency.
Proponents of such investigations argue that a disclosure of ideological sensibilities will enhance authentic discourse. Readers are better able to interpret the text and watch for bias. Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal is among the supporters of ideological self-disclosure in economic discourse.
- Oswald, Andrew J. (2007). "An Examination of the Reliability of Prestigious Scholarly Journals: Evidence and Implications for Decision-Makers". Economica. 74 (293): 21–31. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0335.2006.00575.x.
- Cynthia Clark Northrup, "American Economic Association," The American economy: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 2004, ISBN 1-57607-866-3, pages 9-10.
- "History and Objectives". American Economics Association. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
- Bernstein, Michael A. (2008). "A Brief History of the American Economic Association". American Journal of Economics & Sociology. 67 (5): 1007–1023. doi:10.1111/j.1536-7150.2008.00608.x.
- The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition (2008), American Economic Association (abstract).
- "AEA Officers". Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- Lahart, Justin (April 22, 2010). "Handicapping Economics' 'Baby Nobel,' the Clark Medal". The Wall Street Journal.
- George Stigler, 1959. "The Politics of Political Economists." Quarterly Journal of Economics, 73(4), pp. 522–532.
- Paul Krugman, "Is the Economic Crisis a Crisis for Economics?" Slate November 13, 1998
- McCloskey, The Secret Sins of Economists (2002) p. 19
- Seymour Martin Lipset, "The Academic Mind at the Top: The Political Behavior and Values of Faculty Elites," (1982). Public Opinion Quarterly 46(2):143–168, quoting page 164/
- Daniel B. Klein, and Charlotta Klein, "Is There a Free-market Economist in the House? The Policy Views of American Economic Association Members," American Journal of Economics and Sociology 2007 66(2): 309-334.
- McEachern, William A. "AEA Ideology: Campaign Contributions of American Economic Association Members, Committee Members, Officers, Editors, Referees, Authors, and Acknowledgees" (Jan 2006)
- Klein, Daniel B. "Sense and Sensibilities: Myrdal's Plea for Self-Disclosure and Some Disclosures on AEA Members" (Jan 2006)